Ice cream scoops seem like simple enough kitchen tools, but judging by some of the complaints we read for some ice cream scoopers, they can be frustrating. Some models are too light -- easily bending when trying to scoop hard ice cream. And with others, it's nearly impossible to get the ball of ice cream to pop out without resorting to nudging it with a finger or another tool. For this report, we looked for ice-cream scoops that solve both problems.
To solve the stuck-scoop problem, Zeroll patented its classic heat-activated ice cream scoop in 1935. The design was so successful that the scoop is represented in the Museum of Modern Art, and it is the official ice cream scoop of the famous Penn State Creamery. The Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $25) is an aluminum scooper with a handle filled with self-warming liquid (similar to antifreeze) activated by the warmth of your hand. As a result, user reviews say the Zeroll ice cream scooper produces nicely-rounded scoops without much effort, and the ice cream slides off the scoop easily. The Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop is available in six sizes, ranging from size 10 to size 30 (corresponding to how many scoops you can get from a quart-size container).
One caveat: The Zeroll ice cream scooper isn't dishwasher-safe. The Zeroll Zerolon Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $25) is a Teflon-coated version of the original Zeroll scooper. The nonstick coating is supposed to help ice cream slide off even easier, but opinions from about 10 reviewers posting to Amazon.com are split, with some complaining that the Teflon finish wears off over time -- onto your hands and the ice cream.
Although owners love the Zeroll ice cream scooper, $25 is pricey for a kitchen gadget. We found good reviews for a couple of cheaper options. For example, BakingBites.com recommends the Zyliss Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $10), which looks a lot like the Zeroll scooper without the liquid-filled handle. More than 110 reviewers posting to Amazon.com say the sharp metal edges effectively cut through the hardest of ice cream. The tradeoff for the low price is that the scoop is metal-coated, not solid metal, and the finish flakes off over time.
The Copco Ultimate Polished Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $10) is a cross between a scooper and an ice cream spade. A review on About.com says that this ice-cream scooper works especially well in hard ice cream. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.) More than 30 owners contributing to a 5-star average rating on Amazon.com agree. But a review at RachaelRayMag.com describes the scoops as "large and oblong" rather than round scoops. Reviewers say the Copco ice cream scooper feels sturdy and is comfortable to use with a rubber grip on the underside and a rubber thumb rest on top of the handle.
Getting the ice cream to pop out of the scooper can be a challenge with any ice cream scoop. Mechanical scoopers try to solve this problem by incorporating some kind of lever or arm that helps release the ice cream from the scoop. One downside is that the moving parts can jam, bend or break.
The Oxo Steel Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $15) has a thumb-activated lever that pushes the scoop out of the spoon, which KitchenDaily.com says "makes beautiful spheres for cones." RachaelRayMag.com says the Oxo ice cream scoop produces "small, perfectly round" scoops, but that it didn't work well on very hard ice cream. We only found about 10 user reviews on Amazon.com, but they are mainly positive.
Fante's #16 Ice Cream and Portioning Scoop (*Est. $15) works with a squeeze-activated, metal arm, which sweeps the bowl of the scooper to release the ice cream. One seven-model test taps the Fante's ice cream scooper as a good pick for softer ice creams and sorbets, but it doesn't work quite as well on very hard ice cream. KitchenDaily.com says the Fante's #16 Ice Cream and Portioning Scoop is "well made and easy on the hand."
In summary, consumers are generally more pleased with non-mechanical ice cream scoopers. The lever mechanisms on mechanical ice cream scoopers can be useful for other foods, but when it comes to ice cream, most owners are more than pleased with the results they get from self-warming scoops, such as the Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $25) or other nonmechanical ice cream scoopers with design features that make slicing through frozen treats an easy task, like the Copco Ultimate Polished Ice Cream Scoop (*Est. $10).
Cook's Illustrated magazine and the Los Angeles Times offer comparison testing of ice-cream scoopers, although both reviews are several years old. We also found reviews from BakingBites.com, KitchenDaily.com, TheKitchn.com and RachaelRayMag.com useful. Owner opinions from Williams-Sonoma.com and Amazon.com round out the overall picture of most of the ice-cream scoopers covered in this report. A single product review of the Wilton/Copco Ultimate Ice Cream Scoop found on About.com and a post at KK.org covering Zeroll scoops are also helpful. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)